October 12, 2010

And another untimely death....

This in relation to a story about a 19 year old gay male who killed himself after attending a city council meeting, where a gay pride proclamation was approved. Gay Teen In Oklahoma Takes His Own Life. News story on the Dallas Voice, here. The city council meeting, all 4 hours, here.

A member of the community exhorted us to "...write about it on your blog or Facebook page...."

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Anyone actually sit through the 4 hours of council meeting, posted online?

I scrolled through, and seemed like there were a lot of folks in favor of the proclamation - it was far from an overwhelming shit-storm of hate. One of the comments on the linked Dallas Voice website notes:

The council voted in favor of supporting this proclamation and 24 out of 40 citizens stood up and spoke in favor.

24/40 = 60%; if 60% of our congress were in favor of ENDA or gay marriage or repealing DADT, those things would all be law.

It sucks that a young gay man chose to kill himself. But I personally believe that the media spotlight and canonization of these young people makes it MORE likely, not less, that the next suicide victim will choose death over life. If one is feeling particularly worthless or empty, knowing that one will find fame and purpose in death seems to me as good an incentive to die as any.

I've noted before the phenomena known as suicide clusters, and although these generally happen in a geographic area (a city or school), I see no reason in this connected society why they do not happen in subcultures rather than geographic communities. There is a lot of information out there about this issue, but some quotes from the piece linked above:

"We know from studies that have looked at the impact of the media that there is something called the 'dose-response association.' So the size of the increase in suicides following a suicide story is proportional to the amount, and the duration, and the prominence of the coverage."

There are ways that the media can cover a suicide that can actually help mitigate the risk of additional suicides, says psychiatrist Paula Clayton, medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, who regularly advises the media on how to report on a suicide. For example, they should report on the many complex factors that may have led up to the suicide and emphasize that 90 percent of people who kill themselves have mental health problems.

Clayton cautions, though, that using details about a suicide can increase the risk of suicide clustering. "Don't talk about the method, or show the place where the suicide occurred. And don't glorify it," she says.

It's a pity this young man did not find a reason to celebrate 24 people standing up for the proclamation, to celebrate the city council approving the proclamation, and have a social network to go have celebratory pizza with and rip the haters apart.

So no, I will not blog or post to facebook or increase the media footprint of this sort of event. Because there is another GLBT youth sitting out there right now feeling unloved and unimportant, and that young person might just decide that, like this young man, he or she is worth more to the cause as a beloved martyr than as an obscure, lonely youth.

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Yeah, I know, I lied. I just blogged about it. But I do so in the hope that the community, the activists, the people working with queer youth stop turning these kids into martyrs, into saints, into beloved, admired, role models. We're making it easier for these kids to decide to pull the trigger, folks. As John Gorka once noted "...people love you, when they know you're leaving soon....." (Gypsy Life)

I do admire the It Gets Better project, started by Dan Savage and his partner, Terry. Because it does get better.

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